Childhood Diseases

Updated 25 August 2016

Kids may not be faking ailments to skip school

There are many factors that can cause headaches in school kids, and if they complain about a headache, they probably aren't faking.

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It's only a matter of time before parents have to deal with a child who doesn't feel well enough to go to school.

Headaches have many causes

If your child complains of a headache, he or she probably isn't faking, said Dr Jennifer Caudle. She is an assistant professor of family medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, New Jersey.

Stress, lack of sleep or changes in diet can all contribute to headaches in children she said in a university news release.

Most headaches can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Parents should seek medical attention if their child has a headache related to injury.

Read: Bubble Boy' disease may be more common than thought

Medical attention is also needed if a child complaining of headache has a fever and stiff neck, or if vision is affected, the headache doesn't go away or if it causes the child to miss school or other activities, she added.

When dealing with any type of illness, "parents need to be able to quickly assess whether their child is well enough for school, should stay home or needs to see a physician," Caudle said.

Fever can be serious

When children have a cold, it's generally best for them to rest, she suggested. Coughing, sneezing, runny nose, sinus pressure, mild sore throat and body aches not only make it hard to concentrate in the classroom, but a child may also spread the cold virus to others.

Read: Call to vaccinate kids before school starts

Kids who have a fever should definitely stay home, Caudle said. She advises parents to give child-strength OTC medications and to call a doctor if symptoms worsen or fail to improve. It's also time to call a doctor when an already high fever rises or continues for more than 24 hours.

If you suspect your child has pink eye (conjunctivitis), which is easily spread, keep him or her at home. Call your doctor for treatment, typically antibiotic eye drops. The doctor will let you know when your child can return to school.

Children who vomit or have diarrhoea should not go to school. They can become dehydrated quickly, so discuss symptoms with your doctor. Gradually introduce clear liquids and bland foods. It's especially important to contact your doctor if vomiting or diarrhoea persists for 24 hours, if the child has a fever, or there is blood in the vomit or stool, Caudle said.

"When in doubt about the seriousness of your child's illness, or if your child has underlying illnesses that make them particularly susceptible to the conditions above, always err on the side of caution and contact your child's physician for advice," Caudle said.

Read more:

How to avoid medication overdoses in children

New hope for childhood diseases

When you're suddenly unable to talk

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Paediatrician

Prof Eugene Weinberg worked in the Paediatrics Department of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital for many years. He is presently a paediatric allergist at the Allergy Diagnostic Unit of the UCT Lung Institute in Mowbray.

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